As Canadians recognized the week of May 2-6 as Mental Health Week, CAF leadership met with researchers and experts to discuss mental health in the CAF at the The Military Mental Health Research Symposium.
Held on May 3, The Military Mental Health Research Symposium was co-sponsored by the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research (CIMVHR) and the CAF.
The symposium featured scientific presentations from the Department of National Defence (DND) and researchers from CIMVHR University Members on relevant mental health research. Presentations from more than 20 experts in the field were delivered on topics like the importance of mental health in the CAF, differences between military and civilian mental disorders, suicide, alcohol abuse, child abuse, sexual abuse.
“We hear so many news about mental health in the forces…there are so many myths surrounding the forces so people want to know firsthand what is happening,” said Dr. Stéphanie Bélanger, CIMVHR’s Associate Scientific Director.
The symposium also addressed the needs of military families.
“It is a great thing. We often talk about the serving members or veterans but what about them [the families],” added Bélanger.
The goal of symposiums such as these is to prepare soldiers for situations they might face. The hope is that by understanding humans in a combat situation, the CAF and researchers can assist with training and resilience to prevent mental health challenges.
“The goal is to give to the troops the tools before they get deployed, before things happen so that the triggers coming, they see them coming as they come. The problem is when it takes so much time because it’s a stigma they hide, they self medicate, which is always bad, so it’s how to make sure they won’t do that. They will know right away what to do,” stated Bélanger.
According to Bélanger the awareness raised by events such as these is key to getting help to soldiers at an appropriate time.
“The rate of success is quite high if we get to people soon enough,” explained Bélanger.
The symposium was attended by 220 guests including many military officials like the Surgeon General Brigadier-General MacKay and LGen Christine Whitecross, CAF Military Personnel Command.
“It was really interesting to see the interaction between the researchers and the stakeholders, the ones who take care of our troops,” noted Bélanger.
Bélanger added that the audience was well engaged and interested.
The symposium was established three years ago by the CAF. After the success of the first event, the military partnered with CIMVHR to bring the research to a wider audience.